Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 26, 2019*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 10 of 55 OCT. 26, 2019 11 UNDER THE DOME Junior starting running back Jafar Armstrong, sidelined with an abdomi- nal tear on the first se- ries in the season opener at Louisville Sept. 2, was back on the practice field the week before the Bowl- ing Green game Oct. 5 and went through vigorous sessions the week prior to facing the USC Trojans Oct. 12 to confirm his read- iness for game action. Even if all is well in practice, though, that didn't mean that the 6-1, 2 2 0 - p o u n d A r m s t ro n g would automatically have "starter snaps" against USC. "I don't know if we can expect him to throw on a cape and play like Super- man," Kelly said five days before the showdown with the Trojans. "There is go- ing to be a process of com- ing back, especially at the running back position. You can't go from not playing for six weeks and have a workload of 50 plays. "If we could get 20 plays out of him, that would be terrific." The running game hit its nadir in the 23-17 loss at No. 3 Georgia Sept. 21. The Irish ran the ball only 14 times (tied for the fewest in Kelly's 10 seasons) for 46 yards, mainly because at the time senior Tony Jones Jr. was the lone proven and trusted figure in the backfield. Since then, the backfield has been developing "on the run." It found a rhythm in the fourth quarter during a 35-20 victory versus Virginia Sept. 28, totaling 120 yards on 15 carries in those 15 minutes, led by Jones' 97 on seven carries. More encouraging was sophomore C'Bo Flemister began to run with authority in that game, highlighted by an 11-yard touchdown run in which he broke two tackles. Versus a far weaker Bowling Green defense, sophomore Jahmir Smith, sidelined most of three games with turf toe, began to see more action, tearing off a 24-yard run, Flemister had eight carries for 30 yards and another touchdown, and converted cornerback Avery Davis caught three passes for 39 yards and a score, and added three carries for eight yards. Jones remained the bell cow figure with 102 yards on seven carries, but the return of Armstrong is expected to provide a dimension Notre Dame has been lacking. "Jafar brings an explosiveness to the offense that we're obviously waiting for," Kelly said. "… His abil- ity to impact the offense at receiver and a runner. "He's got top-end speed and he's big and physical. He impacts it in three ways." The Irish head coach also revealed that the plan with freshman running back Kyren Williams is to now red- shirt him. Williams had played his threshold of four games without los- ing eligibility the first four weeks, but now with Smith and Armstrong com- ing back, and Flemister and Davis be- coming more active to complement Jones, the best course of action is to give him more time to grow and learn. The identity of the offense this year has revolved around huge "chunk" plays with the passing game, part of why Notre Dame averaged only about 63 plays on offense the first five contests (it averaged 73 last year). As the running game continues to evolve and the line finds its conti- nuity, those numbers could change, although Armstrong provides more explosiveness himself. "You're looking for that kind of ratio balance where you've estab- lished the running game and have a big-play opportunity in the passing game," Kelly summarized. — Lou Somogyi Jafar Armstrong Returns; Kyren Williams To Be Redshirted The plan for freshman running back Kyren Williams (No. 23) is to redshirt this season after seeing action in the first four games. He has one catch for three yards and two kickoff returns for 35 yards this year. Junior running back Jafar Armstrong (right) was expected to return to the lineup against USC, although head coach Brian Kelly cautioned that the plan was to gradually build up his snaps following his recovery from an abdominal tear. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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